"John Berikoff Helped Shape Our Community" - A tribute by Graham Bruce, January 2021
May 10th, 2021 - Happy Birthday John! We wanted to share your story sent to us from Graham . . .
John Berikoff was made an honorary member of Rotary for his many years of service to Rotary and his community. At 90 years of age and still going strong it is well deserved. But there is much more to this man and his contribution to this community that we can thank him for.
His years of service as the administrator of North Cowichan and his quiet guiding hand helped shaped the community we live in today.
He was there providing advice to councils through the major development years of North Cowichan. It was his financial advice that balanced a very aggressive agenda while maintaining an acceptable property tax rate for ratepayers.
Through his time the first official community plan was developed and implemented with tremendous community input. It was through this plan that set the stage for thoughtful development strategies to manage the significant growth pressures occurring throughout the municipality. It identified residential areas like Maple Bay Road and The Properties, the retail commercial zone for Cowichan Commons, both the Chemainus Industrial Park and the South End Industrial Park.
This was followed with a comprehensive road rebuilding plan including the Beverley St extension and a sewage expansion plan to meet the residential needs.
It was John’s calm advice that helped in part to encourage MacMillan Bloedell to rebuild the Chemainus Sawmill and helped council navigate the rebuilding of the Chemainus commercial core through creative tourism strategies, and the Downtown Revitalization Program.
The nationally acclaimed forest management plan of North Cowichan’s forests was also assisted through his advice and forestry contacts. This led to over 1000 people employed through the intensive forest management plan during the very difficult employment times of the early 1980s.
He was there during the turbulent years of preserving the Cowichan Estuary, Somenos Flats and the Mt Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve but it was his solid financial background and patient advice that provided the foundation for North Cowichan to build on.
Before he left North Cowichan in 1991, John ensured his replacement was enthusiastic and qualified to build on the foundation that had been set. But he didn’t retire, he went on to serve as the ministerial assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, his former young Mayor he worked so hard to guide.
After a ten year hiatus at age 70, he returned once more to government in Victoria, again as an MA to the same minister. And only after serving 6 months of 12 hour days, did he finally put his pen down as a government servant telling his not so young charge, “You’re on your own”.
However you can’t keep a good man down and so once again he answered the call for 9 more years as the financial officer giving the Island Corridor Foundation a strong financial footing.
While he fulfilled his duties as a public servant he also assisted his wife (of 65 plus years), who has tirelessly contributed to our community in her own ways. Marg spent many years organizing and assisting the annual Cancer Daffodil Campaign, the Cowichan Hospital Women’s Auxiliary gift shop, and the huge annual Christmas Chaos bazaar. Still today as always, she keeps John on his toes through her involvement at St. Peter’s Church.
The Cowichan Valley is richer for the contributions of John and Marg Berikoff and Rotary has been served well by Honorary Member John Berikoff.
Graham Bruce
(Mayor, North Cowichan 1979 – 1987)